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What Is the Difference Between Stretch Film and Shrink Film?

May. 23, 2024

Stretch film and shrink film are both types of plastic films used for packaging and securing items, but they differ significantly in their applications, properties, and how they are used. Here's a detailed comparison:

Stretch Film

1. Definition:

Stretch film is a highly stretchable plastic film commonly made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). It is wrapped around items to hold them securely together.

2. Application:

Primarily used for pallet wrapping to secure loads during transportation.

Used to bundle products together, such as multiple boxes or items on a pallet.

3. Usage:

The film is stretched and applied manually or using a machine, where it clings tightly due to its elastic recovery.

It does not require heat to apply.

4. Properties:

Elasticity: High stretchability allows the film to elongate and conform to the shape of the load.

Cling: Adheres to itself, creating a tight, secure wrap.

Tear Resistance: Good resistance to punctures and tears.

Transparency: Typically clear, allowing for easy identification of wrapped products.

5. Types:

Hand Stretch Film: Designed for manual application.

Machine Stretch Film: Designed for use with stretch wrap machines.

Specialty Stretch Film: Includes UV resistant, colored, and pre-stretched films.

Shrink Film

1. Definition:

Shrink film is a type of plastic film, often made from polyolefin, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or polyethylene (PE). It shrinks tightly over the product when heat is applied.

2. Application:

Used for packaging individual items or groups of items, such as books, DVDs, and food products.

Commonly used in retail packaging to protect products and enhance appearance.

 PVC Shrink Film

PVC Shrink Film

3. Usage:

The film is loosely applied around the product and then exposed to heat using a heat gun or shrink tunnel. The heat causes the film to shrink tightly around the item.

Requires heat for application.

4. Properties:

Shrinkage: Contracts upon heating, forming a tight, conforming seal around the product.

Durability: Provides a tamper-evident seal and protection against dirt, moisture, and damage.

Transparency: Usually clear, enhancing the visibility and presentation of the product.

Variety of Shrink Rates: Different films have different shrink rates, which affect how tightly they conform to the packaged item.

5. Types:

Centerfold Shrink Film: A single sheet of film folded in half, creating a double layer.

Shrink Sleeves: Tubular film used to wrap around products, often used for labeling bottles and cans.

Shrink Bags: Pre-formed bags that shrink around the product when heated.

Key Differences

Application Process:

Stretch Film: Applied by stretching around the product without heat.

Shrink Film: Applied loosely and then shrunk using heat.

 PETG Shrink Film

  PETG Shrink Film

Use Cases:

Stretch Film: Primarily for securing and bundling items on pallets for transportation.

Shrink Film: Used for retail packaging, product protection, and tamper-evident seals.

Material Properties:

Stretch Film: High elasticity and cling properties, designed to stretch and conform.

Shrink Film: Shrinks when heated, providing a tight, protective seal around the product.


Stretch Film: Can be applied manually or with a stretch wrap machine.

Shrink Film: Requires a heat source like a heat gun or shrink tunnel for application.

Recommended Reading: What Is the Difference Between Pet Shrink Film and Pvc Shrink Film?


While both stretch film and shrink film are used in packaging, they serve different purposes and are applied differently. Stretch film is used to tightly secure loads on pallets without the need for heat, relying on its elasticity. Shrink film, on the other hand, requires heat to shrink and conform tightly around individual products or bundles, providing protection and a tamper-evident seal. Understanding these differences helps in selecting the right film for specific packaging needs.